Heckling on the streets of Bengaluru

Sakshi Keshri

When you picture an IT-City, you think about development and real infrastructure along with a society which is educated and free of poverty. However, the IT-City of India, Bengaluru, is far from this truth.

The most significant practice one can see in the city is that of street hawkers and costermongers, at every nook and corner. Bengaluru’s daily traffic has enabled the streets to become a hub for these people. What is worse is the fact that these people come along with their entire family and make the streets their home, leaving an extremely unhygienic and unsanitary environment around them.

These hawkers, paddlers or costermongers are in the truest of the sense, a ‘heckler’. The word ‘Heckler’ originated in the mid-fifteenth century where it was used to denote a ‘person who harasses’ others. The term fits them right!

Every day as soon as we step out of the comfort of our homes and on to the streets, encountering a heckler is extremely common. They could be beggars harassing you for a few spare paisa or someone selling you a trinket of some sort, like a cheap, plastic lantern that lights up, or a fruit seller selling pink guavas to people in vehicles on hot afternoons when the traffic signal turns red.

Lately, there has been an increase in the number of transgender people who go from one vehicle to another and ask people for money. Such practices only add to the nuisance on the already existing traffic on the roads.

When people from rural or underdeveloped areas come to a city like Bengaluru, opportunities seem infinite but are soon hit by a barrel of truth when they are sucked into a sort of spiral that is chaotic and unbound, laced with poverty and suffering.

It has become an extremely common phenomenon that the people selling you things on the streets are a part of something much bigger than what is visible to our eyes. A couple of aspects about their lifestyle seem extremely out of place.

On speaking to a resident of Sarjapura Road, an insight to the citizen’s perspective was gathered.  “Just a few months ago, a group of men, women as well as children were selling plastic balloons attached on sticks with fairy lights wrapped all around them, selling it for just 100 a piece. Every single day, one of them comes up to me to pester me to buy something from them. Even though I don’t encourage such practices, it (the balloon) was too beautiful to not buy. “

As appealing as that may sound, it is necessary to realize that there is no way those people could have acquired something so exclusive-looking on their own and moreover, were selling it at a mere price of Rs. 100 per balloon.

The question is who is their supplier? If we find the answer to that, we can understand that there is someone, way up in the hierarchy that hires such people to sell these trinkets on the roads. The more grave matter is that not only men and women, but children, too are allowed to be a part of the scam.

In fact, as children would receive a better and a more empathetic treatment from the other people on the roads, they are the first to be employed by such organizations. According to some surveys, in some extreme cases, the children are made to starve or consume some sort of a drug to give the impression of a weak, underfed, malnourished child. People on the roads tend to be pitiful towards them, inevitably encouraging a very dangerous practice, a bigger scandal.

Often these street hawkers make their very business grounds their homes. They can be seen on the roads, cooking, cleaning and washing, living their lives on the streets. They leave behind their trails of life in the form of garbage and debris. There is hardly anything done by the authorities to curb such practices on the road and day by day these practices keep on increasing. It is important to understand that it just doesn’t end with the street hawkers being chased away from the roads. A more thorough investigation into the roots of the matter will ensure that these practices aren’t repeated.

It would become extremely hazardous to our community if steps are not taken towards such practices. Authorities need to step up and make Bengaluru stand tall to the name of the IT-City.

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